Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blog Entry 300. The Amendments We Need. For Real.

It's taken some time for me to re-post, and a lot of it is due to a few factors - including job hunting - but above all the fact that this is my 300th post on this blog.

And for all the political ranting and raving I do here, I had a purpose for creating this blog in the first place: to promote Constitutional Amendment ideas in the hope that they can be discussed, ragged on, sniped, dismissed, and ultimately ignored by the blogosphere as a whole once the storm died down.


So I spent some time thinking over "Well, okay, what are the top Amendment proposals I have that I really want Americans to promote in order to end government gridlock, media stupidity, wingnut madness, and create a Utopian nation that I'd considered hypocritical because I know that Utopias are a collective pipe dream?"

I decided my 300th post should be the Top Ten list of Amendment ideas that I really really REALLY think should get consideration from the Bottom on up to the Top.

I ended up with Twelve.  My bad.

And so, Copied/Pastied from my word processor, here is:

The Ten – Make That Eleven, Hold on Twelve – Amendments We Really Seriously Need To Save This Nation

The President of the United States, and the people who serve at the pleasure of the President, are not above the law.
Members of Congress, and the people who serve Congress, are not above the law.
The Justices of the Supreme Court, and the people who serve in the Judiciary, are not above the law.
The system of checks and balances between the three branches of federal government shall be maintained at all times.
NOTE: This is my "Fuck You" to Richard Nixon and to anyone following his dark path by taking the Unitary Executive theory of allowing the President to do whatever the hell he/she wants.  But as I thought it over, I felt it constrained the President at the expense of the other two branches of government, so I included them as well.

Lying is not Protected Speech.
Any elected official, or person working for the federal government, found making false statements regarding laws, policies, government research, public polling, or historical facts will be suspended from duty pending investigation. If found that the person made any false statement while aware of the facts, that person will be removed from public service, and barred from all government employment and election.
NOTE: This is my "Fuck You" to every liar I've railed against on this blog.  If you follow the lies tag to this article, you might pull up the other times I've argued how lying in the political forum has poisoned our discourse and is hurting our nation's ability to get the wrong things made right again.  Breitbart Delendus Est.

Federal government shall regulate business and finance to ensure the protection of employees from unsafe or unhealthy workplaces, the protection of customers from fraud, and the protection of the nation's communities from large-scale accidents.
NOTE: Regulations exist for a reason: TO PROTECT PEOPLE.  This needs to get spelled out in the Constitution itself.

The power to wage war or any military action shall be held by the President as Commander-in-Chief. The power to call for war, to fund any war effort, and to oversee any military action shall be held by Congress.
If circumstance requires the President to act immediately on a military action outside of Congressional approval, the President is required to limit such military action to thirty days. The President must appear before a full session of both houses of Congress within three days of initiating the military action to explain to Congress what transpired, why action was needed, and if such action raises to the need for Congress to declare war.
After the required presentation before Congress, the President is required to inform the appropriate Senate committee of the military's assessment for action, and the short-term plans that the military has for carrying out successful operations within another three days. A long-term military plan including any occupation of foreign territory and oversight of any nation-building must be presented to that Senate committee within thirty days only if Congress does vote for war. Any objective that requires occupation and nation-building requires a declaration of war by Congress.
Congress has the right to vote for war which can be deemed ended once established objectives are achieved, or can vote to extend the military action for up to ninety days depending on the military situation. Congress cannot vote for military action extension more than twice: if action must continue Congress should vote for war or not.
The House of Representatives has the right to oversee expenditures committed during the military action or war effort to ensure there is no fraud, embezzlement or theft of funds.
The Senate has the right to oversee military conduct of the military action or war effort, and to receive regular updates from the President on the war's progress and ongoing military assessment.
Congress is require to raise funds through a war tax to pay for the military action or war effort as needed.
NOTE: We have a War Powers Act as law, but people have been noticing the past few wars - Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya - that the President hasn't completely asked Congress for full-out War, just military actions.  But this has led to horrendous and mismanaged occupations that include massive loss of funds and massive loss of civilian life.  Not to mention increased burdens on our military and our overall budget.  Obama's failures to fully keep Congress informed or show any sign of accountability over military action in Libya is troubling.  Every part of this amendment idea is to reinforce the checks and balances between the Executive and Legislative, to force Congress to take a more proactive role in the oversight of our war efforts.

The right of any person held by authorities of federal, state, or local jurisdiction to petition for a writ of habeas corpus will not be suspended under any circumstance, even in time of war.
Any person detained by the military can apply for prisoner of war status and receive legal protections as such, and be released from custody once Congress confirms the war has ended. A person not applicable for prisoner of war status must be tried fairly for any criminal acts that made that person a danger to the safety of our nation's citizenry within a court of law and within reasonable time.
The federal government has the right to retain a person they have basic evidence shows to be a clear danger to the safety of our nation's citizenry, until such time as can be proven in open court that person is no longer a threat or has served out the conditions of a prison sentence issued by the Judiciary.
NOTE: The abuses committed under the PATRIOT Act and committed with regards to prisoners taken during the War On Terror led to this amendment.  The century-old argument over who has the right to suspend habeas - President or Congress - should be answered by this amendment: None do.  This basic legal right is the basis for all legal protection for citizens.  Without habeas, any of us could be held without legal reason.  Abuse of rights would be rampant.  So habeas stays in effect, no matter what.

If the Senate refuses to advise and consent the President on Executive and Judicial nominations to serve the federal government, the President can fill ALL such vacancies however the President sees fit during that term of office.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to EVERY Senator that has used a Secret Hold to obstruct any nomination before the Senate.  Because of this, half the Judicial system is void of judges, our courts are backlogged, and it's becoming enough of a crisis that even the Chief Justice - normally sitting above the fray - is crying out for it to end.  Not to mention the number of job vacancies at the Executive office that haven't been filled in the last three years!  This is getting out of control.  If a Senator doesn't like a nominee, the Senator can always vote NO.

All professions of employment are required at the national level to create and oversee a code of ethics for professional behavior of those who work in said profession, and has the ability to decertify anyone in that profession who fails that code of ethics on a repeating basis.
NOTE: While there will be screams and protests that government shouldn't meddle or regulate, the fact of the matter is our entire business and industry system has issues with a lack of accountability and ethical oversight.  There ARE organizations at the national level for a lot of professions - usually unions or associations - but few of them have any authority to enforce a code of behavior.  Mostly doctors and lawyers and plumbers (I think, I'm not sure about plumbers), but because doctors and lawyers tend to be most vulnerable to liability issues.  But I'm thinking it's time every profession has a system of accountability - teachers, librarians, truck drivers, boat builders, food processors, stock brokers, journalists, jugglers, interior designers, bankers, bakers, dog trainers, people trainers, what have you - to try and clean up a lot of the mess that a decade (or three) of unethical behavior by certain groups - bankers, stock brokers and journalists especially - has led us to.  But if I go after bankers and journalists, might as well include everyone else.  No favors.  Gotta be cruel.

The States must uphold equal and fair access to public education as a right to the states' residents and their children.
The States cannot endorse one religious belief over another within the states' public education system. And the states cannot endorse religion where it would interfere with the study of the sciences.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to every Intelligent Design con artist and Creationist bullshitter out there.  Not to mention the Prayer In School crowd who never understood the Founders' intent of Separation of Church And State.  There's a place for God: it's called Church.  The only praying at school should be the week before final exams.  /rimshot
EDIT: This is also a "Fuck You" to every Governor or State lege that's pushing to privatize our school systems.  There's no evidence that privatization improves learning experience for kids and teens, and yet these bozos keep pushing things like vouchers and charter schools as miracle cures.  This also ties into the Prayer In School crowd because vouchers and privatization helps private religious schools more than existing public schools.

All persons petitioning the federal government as representative to a group or corporate entity can only lobby for that group / entity after undergoing a basic background check that can be accessed by the public upon request.
All persons working as a lobbying or petitioning representative must recuse themselves if they have direct personal dealings with any member of the office of government that the group / entity is petitioning.
Any person working for the federal government as elected official, civil servant, employee of elected official, or military service is barred from working as a lobbyist or petitioner equal to the amount of time that person worked for the federal government.
Any person or corporate entity of foreign nationality must petition or lobby the United States government through their nation's embassy. They are barred from any financial contribution to a campaign or attempt to petition government through a third party.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to every politician and high-ranking official who exits the public sector to take a lobbyist job ten minutes later at three times the salary and without the ethical oversight (although Amendment Idea Seven. might help with that).  Lobbying as a whole has become a multi-billion dollar industry all its own, and because of legal loopholes and First Amendment abuse that industry is rife with corruption.  Look, people do have a right to petition government, but not at the expense of pork-barrel waste, lopsided legislation that favors a single issue over all others, or one company or industry at the expense of other companies or industries that just don't have the insider connections to make Congress and President do their dances.  Even more terrifying is how foreign governments and foreign-owned companies hire lobbyists to directly petition our government for them: the threat of foreign influence on our government isn't a threat, it's happening on a daily basis.

The right of the nation's citizenry to access government documentation at the federal, state and local level shall be maintained. Classification of documents can only apply to matters of national security such as military and defense, treaty negotiations with foreign governments, active criminal investigations that involve undercover work, and any such materials that a court of law determines to be of sensitive issue.
NOTE: It's called Sunshine Laws here in Florida.  And even with the Sunshine in place, our state government goes out of its way to hide meetings, cover up documentation, and avoid accountability at all costs.  At the federal level, it's worse: anybody with a "Classified" stamp and a black ink marker can hide a document or black out entire pages of information to where even Senators can't read them.  The lack of oversight and accountability is shocking.  The wake-up call for me was when Cheney held meetings with energy corporation CEOs to plot out energy policy, and when asked about it declared it was all "national security".  We still have no idea what was really discussed, except that afterward our nation's energy needs got more expensive...  We need to get rid of the excuse of "national security" for nearly everything our government does: our leaders and policy enforcers need to answer for what they do.

Any legislative bill reaching the floor of either the House or the Senate must be certified within three business days by all elected officials that plan on voting for that legislation.
The certification requires the Representative or Senator to sign an oath confirming they have read the legislation up for vote and are aware of the basic elements of that bill. If the Representative or Senator refuses to certify, that person cannot vote Yes or No on the bill, only Present.
The bill cannot be amended nor receive attachments or riders during the certification period. The legislation can only be amended after the vote if there is a need to clean up the language or fix a clerical error within the print. If the bill requires additional work it must be taken off the floor and sent back to the appropriate committee for review and re-work.
If the bill requires more than three days for review, the certification can be extended up to fifteen business days. Any scheduled vacation or recess will be delayed to allow those fifteen business days for Representatives or Senators to review and certify before taking the vote.
NOTE: This is an idea that's been floated before by others more experienced and better-known.  Given the size and complexity of some of the bills reaching the floors of Congress, there's been revelations that a good number of our elected officials don't even know what are IN those bills to begin with.  Something like this amendment can ensure that our elected officials at least read enough of the bill to know what's in it.  And it should prevent a lot of last-minute rider attachments and poison pills that turn some bills into boondoggles and disasters.

If Congress requires a balanced budget, the balancing of the budget shall involve cutting expenditures AND raising revenues through taxation.
All taxes at the federal level must be progressive by design.
Any state requiring that any tax hike or raising of revenue use a supermajority vote to pass, then that state must also require that any tax cut or reduction of revenue require that same supermajority to pass as well.
NOTE: This is a "Fuck You" to every tax-cut obsessive out there.  TAX CUTS DON'T WORK.  And tax cuts to the rich - which is what the tax-cut crowd REALLY wants - REALLY DON'T WORK.  And government exists for a reason: to create and uphold laws, and provide government services that will ensure the safety and well-being of the citizenry.  This is especially for California that's stuck with that supermajority requirement for raising taxes, while the cutting of taxes can get a simple majority vote.  And whenever there is a path of least resistence, our elected officials will take it, which is why California is as screwed as it is.  Make tax-cutting as hard as tax-raising, and at least things will be fair.

So.  There you have it.  Yes.  It's that crazy.  ;-)

And now, to the future.  The purpose of this blog was originally about proposing amendment ideas, but it quickly fell into the trap of "blogging whatever makes me happy or angry at that moment".  So the thing I'm thinking about is: changing the title and focus of this political blog.  Any suggestions from my seven readers (and to my bro Eric, no snarkery about it.  I get enough of that from Phil...).